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Azure Kubernetes Service Now Commercially Available

The Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) reached "general availability" status on Wednesday, and can now be commercially used in 10 Azure regions.

Five of the 10 regions are new for the AKS service. The service is newly available in "Australia East, UK South, West US, West US 2, and North Europe," according to Microsoft's announcement. Microsoft expects to expand to "ten more regions in the coming months," according to Brendan Burns, a Distinguished Engineer for Microsoft Azure and a former lead Kubernetes engineer at Google.

Google originally fostered the open source Kubernetes container orchestration solution for clusters. Microsoft subsequently embraced it for use on its Azure datacenter infrastructure. Nearly 70 Microsoft employees have added contributions to Kubernetes, Burns indicated.

Developers might use containers, an operating system virtualization approach, to avoid conflicts when spinning up applications. However, the Kubernetes management system isn't typically thought to be easy to use. Consequently, Microsoft has poured its resources into taking away some of those headaches, resulting in AKS, which provides support for automatic upgrades and the ability to scale operations, plus some self-healing capabilities.

AKS includes role-based access control and the ability to integrate with Azure Active Directory at the preview stage. At this time, AKS can't be used with Windows Server Containers, according to a Microsoft spokesperson, via a Thursday e-mail. "You can use acs-engine to deploy an unmanaged Kubernetes cluster on Azure that supports Windows Server containers," the spokesperson added.

AKS Pricing
The Kubernetes management aspect of the new service is free to use, even with the general availability release. However, because of that aspect, Microsoft doesn't offer a service-level agreement, which is an assurance of service uptime.

Microsoft does charge, though, for the use of Azure virtual machines with AKS, whether they are Linux or Windows. In addition, there are costs associated with the use of static or dynamic IP addresses with the service. Those costs can vary, according to the Azure management system used (classic or Azure Resource Manager). Pricing details are described at Microsoft's AKS pricing page and IP addresses pricing page, and there's a pricing calculator. The complex IP address use cases involved with the service are outlined in this Microsoft Azure document. In response to a question, the spokesperson offered this clarification:

By default, we will create static IPs, since that enables easy creation of DNS A records without having to provide a DNS label on the IP in Azure. It also enables the definition of network policy rules that depend on stable IPs. If you use an ingress controller like the one we enable with HTTP application routing, you can get a single static IP that can map to multiple distinct endpoints in your AKS cluster, in which case the cost of the IP relative to the cost of the VMs is insignificant.

Open Source Tooling Support
Microsoft has contributed to the various open source tools used with Kubernetes. It is the lead developer for Helm, a package manager for Kubernetes. Microsoft last year acquired Deis, a company that made the Helm Chart application package manager product.

Microsoft also "built and released Draft and Brigade to make Kubernetes more approachable for novice users," Burns indicated. Microsoft creates extensions for integrated development environments (IDEs), such as its own Visual Studio, with its Visual Studio Code Kubernetes Tools, which was announced last week as a preview. There's also support for Jenkins, an open source automation server used for software development and testing scenarios.

Last month, Microsoft announced that Azure DevOps Projects supports deploying AKS from the Azure Portal. Microsoft also launched a "private preview" of Azure Dev Spaces for debugging multiple containers in Kubernetes, which works with Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code or the Azure command line. Azure Monitor also supports AKS at the preview stage, showing log information and container health information.

Microsoft also has some related efforts, such as its Azure Container Instances service. Azure Container Instances is a serverless runtime for spinning up containers on Azure datacenters that was publicly released in April. Azure Container Instances isn't considered to be a complete orchestration service like AKS, though.

Microsoft has been putting its efforts behind the open source Virtual Kubelet project, which extends the "Kubernetes API into serverless container platforms," including Azure Container Instances, as well as Fargate and Hyper.sh.

For more discussion about AKS tooling, see Microsoft's Q&A with Burns. It's also possible to see a partial AKS demo by Burns in this Microsoft Channel 9 presentation.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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